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THE BATTLE OF 
HARLEM HEIGHTS 



BY 

THOMAS ADDIS EMMET, M.D. 



, REPRINTED FROM 

THE MAGAZINE OF HISTORY 

WITH NOTES AND QUERIES 
September, 1906 



°C\ b in 



THE BATTLE OF HARLEM HEIGHTS 



[Dr. Emmet's article was written in reply to the following article which appeared some 
time ago in the New York Evening Post. The whereabouts of the Richards letter, quoted 
from, we have been unable to ascertain. — Ed], 

INCE the publication of Prof. H. P. Johnston's monograph on the 
battle of Harlem Heights, not more than one or two letters or 
documents have come to light to be added to the very complete list 
of authorities given in the appendix. One of these which has recently 
been brought to notice is interesting and important as confirming certain 
views advanced by Professor Johnston respecting the location of the 
battlefield and other particulars of the action. It is in the form of an 
extract from the diary of a Revolutionary officer, Lieut. Samuel Richards 
of a Connecticut regiment, who, after describing the retreat from Long 
Island in August, 1776, continues his narrative as follows: 

We then marched and took possession of the heights of Harlem and immedi- 
ately flung up lines for our defence. . . . We were employed the succeeding 
night (September 15, 1776) in throwing up a slight entrenchment on the brow of 
the hill at Harlem Heights in full expectation of being attacked by the enemy in 
the morning. When the sun arose I saw the enemy in the plain below us, at the 
distance of about a mile, forming in a line. By accounts afterwards, their number 
was said to exceed twenty thousand, and they indeed made a brilliant display by 
the reflection of the sun's rays on their arms. ■ 

The sharp action which took place that day under Col. Knowlton is so well 
detailed by the historian, I need not repeat it. The enemy sent a detachment of 
about five thousand along the bank of the North River, which our people attacked 
with spirit and about an equal number, and drove them back to their main body. 
The loss on our side was about thirty killed and sixty or seventy wounded. The 
loss to the enemy must have been more than that, as we repulsed them after a warm 
fire of three-quarters of an hour. Here I first saw Lieut. Munro ; he had volun- 
teered to go to the attack on our right under the command of Col. Knowlton. 

The next day I had a mournful duty assigned to me — the command of a 
covering party over the fatigue men who buried the dead which had fallen in the 
action the previous day. I placed myself and party on a small eminence so as to 
see the men at their work, and to discover the enemy should they approach to 
interrupt them. There were thirty-three bodies found on-the field ; they were drawn 



2 



THE BATTLE OP HARLEM HEIGHTS 



to a large hole which was prepared for the purpose and buried together. One body 
of a fine-limbed young man had been brought into the camp with a bullet hole in 
the breast near the heart. I was struck with reflections on the force of habit to 
see those fatigue men performing this duty with as little apparent concern as they 
would have performed any duty. 

The diary, though written some years after the close of the war, 
furnishes a narrative which is apparently based upon an accurate recollec- 
tion of the events described. Lieut. Richards supports Professor John- 
ston's assertion, already corroborated by a mass of evidence, that the battle 
was fought on the western side and slope of Morningside Heights. 
These authorities, and the maps published in the history, trace the advance 
of the British from what is now One Hundred and Seventh Street along 
the bank of the North River to the " buckwheat field " lying between 
Broadway and Riverside Drive, One Hundred and Sixteenth Street and 
One Hundred and Twentieth Street, as they now exist, where they were 
met by Col. Knowlton's Rangers and where the battle occurred. 

The statement of Lieut. Richards that the American loss was about 
thirty killed confirms the estimate made by Professor Johnston, while the 
third statement as to the burial of those killed furnishes a new item to be 
added to the account of the battle, and lends increased interest to an 
historic site. The plan of the battle and Lieut. Richards's description 
when studied in connection with the natural topography of the Heights 
leave no doubt that either upon or immediately to the west of the Columbia 
University grounds lies the burial place of the men who fell " in the first 
battle of the Revolution in which the American troops faced and routed 
the British." 

DR. EMMET'S REPLY. 

In the Post of Feb. ioth, an editorial on the battle of Harlem 
Heights interested me extremely, as the locality is there described as 
though there existed no longer a doubt as to the exact place where the 
battle was fought. I am aware that this view is held by many, but beyond 
the fact that the present site of Columbia University must necessarily be 
nearer the locality where the battle was fought, it has no greater claim, 
I believe, to that honor than has Union Square, or any other locality. I 
have given no thought to the subject for many years and I am writing 
away from home, without a book of reference, but fortunately I have 
retained a recollection of the details. I am not actuated by a spirit of 



THE BATTLE OF HARLEM HEIGHTS 



3 



controversy in raising this issue, nor do I intend to take any further part 
in discussion. I simply wish to offer a protest, in consequence of my 
knowledge that the history of our country is being constantly perverted 
and misstated. 

There exists no question that the battle of Harlem was fought, either 
to the north or the south of the western portion of Harlem flats; that the 
Americans occupied certain heights; and that the assault of the English 
was made by one body and that the larger portion, from the plain below 
along these heights; at the same time a smaller body gained the top of 
these heights by ascending a ravine from the Hudson river bank at some 
distance from the main line of attack. The whole question then relates 
to the locality of Harlem Heights, and at this late date, in the absence of 
positive proof, the locality must either continue to remain in doubt, or 
must be decided by circumstantial evidence, which is often the most 
reliable. Before presenting the evidence on which I propose to base my 
argument it will be necessary to make a digression. 

Grant's tomb occupies the site of Mt. Alto, the country place of my 
uncle, the late Mr. Bache McEvers, with whom for many years I spent 
a portion of every summer. As a boy I became as familiar with every 
foot of this neighborhood as I am now with the sidewalk in front of my 
Madison Avenue city residence, where I have lived for nearly fifty years. 
I generally accompanied my uncle when he took his Sunday afternoon 
walks and through his knowledge I became familiar with the history and 
traditions of this neighborhood, and of Westchester. On one occasion, 
during the summer, I think of 1838, I had pointed out to me the site of 
the battle of Harlem Heights, with the ravine on the North river, or 
west side, where a portion of the British troops came up to make the 
attack, and beyond that the road on Breakneck Hill, to the east side, down 
which the English were driven after being routed. The surrounding 
country was then under cultivation and divided up in small fields with 
scarcely any trees standing, but along the river bank and on the brow of 
the heights to the eastward. This locality and ravine was near the site 
and possibly forms a portion of the present Trinity Cemetery. I was 
also told that the main part of the battle was fought below, to the south, 
and I went over the ground about the locality of the present Convent of 
the Sacred Heart, which neighborhood was too hilly to be termed " a 
rolling country." From my earliest knowledge in connection with this 
battle until recent years, no doubt seems to have existed as to where 



4 



THE BATTLE OF HARLEM HEIGHTS 



the battle was fought and the accepted belief was the fight took place 
on the ground I have described. The fact that the attack was made at 
distant points and covered quite an area would explain, I should think, 
the difficulty and the vague manner in which the battle is described or 
located by those who possessed a contemporaneous knowledge of the 
locality of the Harlem Heights. 

Along the south side of Harlem Commons or Flats, there extended 
a precipitous ridge of rock and debris, from the Hudson river at Grant's 
tomb to the East river at Hell gate. At the time of the Revolution the 
chief exit from the city of New York to the north, was by way of 
McGowan's Pass, and in addition there were several footpaths to reach 
the plain below. I have always heard that the Bloomingdale road was 
not extended along the hill by Grant's tomb and Claremount to the 
valley below until many years after the Revolution, and there was only 
a private road in addition to the one by McGowan's Pass, which crossed 
this line about the course of the present Third Avenue. When I was a 
boy there were two or three footpaths to the west of McGowan's Pass, 
and at no other place was the descent possible save to a goat, or an active 
boy. Across the Bloomingdale road in front of my uncle's gate and 
along the top of the hill, there was at that time the remains of the British 
line of earthworks, which originally extended along the crest of this 
ridge across the island to the East river. The trench was about two feet 
deep at that time and I have frequently followed without difficulty the 
line well on to McGowan's Pass. In the war of 1812 this line was 
fortified for the protection of the city by a series of blockhouses, one of 
which still stands. I believe the remains of the British line of earth- 
works was undisturbed until the opening of the streets. McGowan's 
Pass was fomerly considered as forming part of the Yorkville Heights, 
and no part of this line, to the south of the Harlem Commons, was ever 
termed Harlem Heights until within recent years. If the portion of these 
heights nearest Harlem was always called the Yorkville Heights, it is 
inexplicable why the most distant portion of the line should be in any 
way associated by name with Harlem. On the other hand I have often 
heard the heights on the south side of the Harlem river termed Harlem 
Heights, and these extend westward to the Hudson river bank. The 
settlement at Harlem with its Commons, or land in common, and the one 
at Yorkville represented two distinct interests, and for one familiar with 
the circumstances it is difficult to understand how any confusion, from 
accident, should exist between Harlem and Yorkville Heights. 



THE BATTLE OF HARLEM HEIGHTS 



5 



That section of the island to the north of the Harlem Commons, 
between the Hudson river and the Boston road, which passed from Mc- 
Gowan's Pass to King's Bridge, and from the northern end of the island to 
the Point of Rocks to the south, then situated below the present site of 
the convent, included the fortress of Fort Washington and its outworks. 

I had at one time in my possession the draft of a letter written by 
Mr. George Pollock, a linen merchant of New York, and the father of 
the child whose grave is near the Grant tomb. In this letter Pollock states 
he purchased after the Revolution a tract of land and cleared off the 
primitive forest which still covered this portion of Manhattan Island, and 
it is not likely therefore that the buckwheat field existed in this neighbor- 
hood in which it is claimed a part of the battle of Harlem was fought. 
Mr. Pollock built here a house, where he lived for a number of years, 
until the death of his wife and the loss of his child from drowning. He 
then sold the place to Gulian Verplanck, of Verplanck's Point. My uncle 
leased for many years this place from his cousin, Gulian C. Verplanck, 
the Shakesperian scholar, and the son of him who purchased it from 
Pollock. All this portion of the island, west of McGowan's Pass along 
the river bank to about 6;th or 70th street, was heavily timbered until 
after the Revolution. To the existence of this timbered section the por- 
tion of the American army left in New York after the battle and evacua- 
tion of Long Island, owed its escape, for the retreat was made in disorder 
and the troops were in a demoralized condition. The sudden flight of 
the army from the city was rendered necessary by the English landing in 
force at Kipp's Bay, just above the present Bellevue Hospital, where they 
met with little resistance from the portion of the Connecticut troops, and 
some other colony, I do not recollect, which were placed there to oppose 
the landing. 

This occasion is adduced as one of the few instances where Wash- 
ington lost his temper and swore as an expert in his effort to avert the 
flight of his troops, who were demoralized from fatigue, loss of sleep, 
with probably insufficient food and discouraged after the defeat at Long 
Island. The day was an excessively hot one, and Mrs. Robert Murray, 
of Murray Hill, whose husband was a Tory, but she in sympathy with 
the American cause, invited the British officers to rest during the heat of 
the day in her house. She exerted herself to such an extent to make them 
comfortable, that just time enough, and no more, was gained for the 
retreat of the American army past this point, along the wooded banks of 



6 



THE BATTLE OF HARLEM HEIGHTS 



the Hudson river. The English were so close in pursuit that Washington, 
in the rear with a portion of his staff, passed in the neighborhood of 70th 
street, through the hall of the old Apthorp House to the woods in the 
rear, under the guidance of Col. Aaron Burr, as those in pursuit entered 
the front gate. From a military standpoint it is clear that these troops 
must necessarily have made their way in the most expeditious manner to 
McGowan's Pass and across the Harlem flats to gain protection within 
their own lines below Fort Washington, and that no halt was likely made 
unless to hold McGowan's Pass for a short time to protect the rear end 
stragglers. And yet a memorial tablet, I am informed, has been placed 
on one of the buildings of Columbia University to commemorate the halt 
of these troops along the brow of a continuous declivity, from fifty to one 
hundred feet in height, as it was at that time ; there to await the attack of 
a victorious and superior force, after all possibility of retreat as a body 
was cut off, and with a certainty that these troops were without a com- 
missariat! If it were possible to assign any rational reason or purpose, 
under the circumstances why the American troops should hold any por- 
tion of this untenable line, it is certain that no body of troops, under the 
most perfect state of discipline, would have risked the fortune of a battle 
in this place, without artillery and with a precipice in their rear. There is 
no evidence that additional troops were landed on Harlem flats from either 
the Hudson or the East river, and it would be absurd to suppose that the 
English deserted an advantagous position in front of the American forces, 
in order to go by McGowan's Pass to the plain below with the purpose 
of making an attack by attempting to scale an almost inaccessible height ! 
An attack by the ravine near this point as claimed, I know from my own 
knowledge of the locality would have been impossible, unless the troops 
to make the attack were landed at the ravine from boats. They could 
not have passed, before the railroad was built, along this shore for 
any distance on either side of the ravine. When I was a boy this point 
was a noted place for fishing, as the water was deep, with a steep bank, 
so that it was difficult for anyone to pass except at low tide and the 
passage was then further obstructed by a number of boulders or rocks. 

I have never seen the diary of Lieut. Sam. Richards, of a Connecticut 
regiment, from which you quote, but the Point of Rocks in front of the 
convent was then held by a Connecticut brigade, under Gen. Parsons, if 
my memory serves me, and a portion of this brigade we have stated was at 
Kipp's Bay, where the English landed. It would then seem that this 
portion of the army from New York had followed the course which, I 



THE BATTLE OF HARLEM HEIGHTS 



7 



claim, the whole army must have followed by retreating within their own 
lines, to the north of Harlem Commons. 

The following portion of Lieut. Richards's diary, as quoted by you, 
will I think show that the attack on the American line of entrenchments 
was to the north of the Harlem flats, and by the ravine near Trinity 
Cemetery, as stated: — " We then marched [from what point?] and took 
possession of the Heights of Harlem and immediately flung up lines for 
our defence. . . . We were employed the succeeding night in throwing 
up a slight entrenchment on the brow of the hill at Harlem Heights in 
full expectation of being attacked by the enemy in the morning. When 
the sun arose I saw the enemy in the plain below us, at the distance of 
about a mile, forming in a line. By account afterwards, their number 
was said to exceed twenty thousand, and they indeed made a brilliant dis- 
play by the reflection of the sun's rays on their arms. The sharp action 
which took place that day under Col. Knowlton is so well detailed by the 
historian I need not repeat it. The enemy sent a detachment of about 
five thousand along the bank of the North river, which our people attacked 
with spirit and about in equal numbers and drove them back to their main 
body. . . . The next day I had a mournful duty assigned to me — 
the command of a covering party over the fatigue men who buried the 
dead which had fallen in the action the previous day. I placed myself 
and party on a small eminence so as to see the men at their work, and to 
discover the enemy should they approach to interrupt them." If the 
battle was fought above on the " University Heights," it might be asked 
on what small eminence did Lieut. Richards take his position, and by 
what route did his men reach the plain below to bury the dead? 

To the south and southeast of the high land on which Fort Wash- 
ington was situated, there were a number of step-like hills, with more or 
less of a level or plateau space between them, and these extended around 
towards the Harlem river. I recollect distinctly seeing the remains of old 
earthworks at different points, and the line was to the north and some- 
what above the Point of Rocks. In connection with the defense of the 
Point of Rocks, the Connecticut troops were entrenched on one of these 
eminences, and if Lieut. Richards was with his command he must first 
have seen the advance of the enemy in line directly across the plain at 
the distance he states and at the foot of McGowan's Pass. From the 
same side as McGowan's Pass, the view would have been a limited 
one with all the timber removed about the foot of the Pass and there is 



8 



THE BATTLE OF HARLEM HEIGHTS 



no portion along the heights, in the neighborhood of the University, from 
which the front of the line of the British troops could have been seen 
while forming, moreover the distance would have been much less than 
that stated by Lieut. Richards. 

The main attack was an extended one along the line of entrench- 
ments, including the Point of Rocks, on what I believe was termed the 
Harlem Heights at the time the battle was fought. In consequence of 
the extended line and the varied fortune of the day, it has never been 
known at what spot Col. Knowlton lost his life. The British troops were 
very severely handled and failed to gain a foothold on any of these 
eminences, from which they could not have been dislodged and everything 
south of the ravine would then have been captured. There exists no 
authority for supposing that any portion of the battle was fought on the 
plain below, but from Lieut. Richards's diary, as quoted by you, it would 
seem the dead were buried there under his supervision, but the spot is 
unknown. 

To the north of Manhattanville and for some distance beyond the 
ravine at Trinity Cemetery, the water was shallow with a shelving beach, 
along which the British troops could have passed at any state of the tide. 
It is however doubtful that five thousand men ascended the ravine, because, 
before a foothold could have been gained, it is said that a bugle call was 
sounded as though for a fox hunt, which at once brought upon the enemy 
an overpowering number of Americans. While it lasted this fight at the 
top of the ravine was doubtless the best contested hand-to-hand struggle 
of the Revolution. It is probable that before the whole number of the 
English reached the top they were divided so that those ascending were 
driven back to the west, and the portion already on top who were not 
killed, were driven down on the east side. As I have understood the plan 
of the battle, the object of those attacking by the ravine was a flank 
movement to finally get in the rear of the earthworks towards the south- 
east where the Americans were being assaulted from the plain below, and 
but for the arrogance of the enemy in giving timely notice of their presence 
in this quarter, which would have been unexpected, the result would have 
been a brilliant one for the English. 

When I first heard of the battle of Harlem and talked to the old 
people I met, relics of the battle were to be found in almost every small 
farmer's house in the neighborhood. From my recollection more par- 
ticularly of some sword hilts and portions of sword blades which were 



THE BATTLE OF HARLEM HEIGHTS 



9 



found on this spot I am led to believe that the clubbed musket of the 
American soldier at close quarters, played an important part in the 
struggle. 

In conclusion let me state that nowhere on Manhattan Island, to my 
knowledge, beyond the limit of the city, have there been found the 
remains of so many English and Hessian soldiers, as shown by buttons, 
cross-belt buckles, bayonets and portions of other arms, as have been 
excavated from time to time in the neighborhood of the Trinity Cemetery. 
There could have been no fight at this point unless it was at the battle of 
Harlem, while the neighborhood about Columbia University, where it is 
claimed the battle was fought, has been particularly free from all such 
evidence. 

Thos. Addis Emmet, M. D. 

New York Citt. 

POSTSCRIPT, 4 

In looking through the Journals of Congress, edited by Mr. Worth- 
ington C. Ford, I found by accident the following (Vol. 6, p. 851) : 

" Monday, Oct. 7, 1776 — 

" Resolved, That Gen'l Lee be directed to repair to the camp on the 
heights of Harlem, with leave, if he thinks it proper, to visit the posts in 
New Jersey." 

This proves that I am correct in saying that all north of Harlem 
Flats was called Harlem Heights at the time and after the Revolution. 
When the change was made I do not know, but at some time it became 
desirable to locate the " Buckwheat Field " for the battle of Harlem 
Heights somewhere in the neighborhood of Columbia University; which 
region, at the time of the encounter was, I believe, heavily timbered, not- 
withstanding the alleged existence of the buckwheat field. It was not 
until after the battle of White Plains, and early in November, that any 
portion of the outworks of Fort Washington was abandoned by the 
Americans. These works were near King's Bridge, and were at once 
taken possession of by Knyphausen with his German battalions, which 
crossed the Flats from McGowan's Pass, and for the first time the 
English got a foothold on Harlem Heights. We are all thankful to the 
Sons of the Revolution for their well-meaning efforts through the erection 



lO THE BATTLE OF HARLEM HEIGHTS 

of these various tablets to establish for the people a knowledge of the 
truth. But in this instance at least, I think the tablet will have to be 
moved, and replaced somewhere between the " Point of Rocks " and 
Trinity Cemetery. And while this is doing, the propriety may be con- 
sidered of moving the statue of Nathan Hale to the neighborhood of 56th 
or 57th Street, between Second and Third Avenues; if its present position 
is meant to mark the place of his execution. Hale was taken across Long 
Island Sound to the headquarters of Howe, then at the Beekman House, 
near 61st street and the East river. He was likely confined over night at 
old Cato's house, which was on the Boston Post Road, (where Howe's 
bodyguard was stationed) , and hung early next morning from one of 
the apple trees of the orchard just across the road, where I, as a boy, 
often looked upon the one nearest the road and decided as to the very 
limb from which he was most likely hung. 

There was no necessity for taking him to the " Old Provost " for the 
night, nor have I found any evidence that he was ever within five or six 
miles of where his statue now stands, in City Hall Park. 

T. A. E. 



DR. EMMET'S REJOINDER. 



REPRINTED FROM THE MAGAZINE OF HISTORY, JANUARY, I9O7. 

[I thank the editor of the Magazine of History for giving me the opportunity of 
reading the article of Messrs. Hall and Bolton before publication. — T. A. K.] 

The object in writing my paper was to call attention to the uncer- 
tainty existing with many as to the exact locality of Harlem Heights, 
on and in the neighborhood of which the battle of September 16, 1776, 
was fought. I hope the subject will be investigated by those in doubt 
at greater length than these gentlemen seem to have done. I cannot 
undertake to do more than may be covered by this letter. I have 
neither the strength, the authorities at hand for investigation, nor the 
time, as within a few days I go South for the winter. 

Messrs. Hall and Bolton may have quoted correctly the authorities 
cited by them, but they have not represented correctly my views, and 
from their paper it is evident they did not read mine with sufficient 
care to ascertain what I did write. 

In the first instance, I did not misstate the relative position of the 
English and American lines, for I was correct, and we agree fully. I 
did not hold that the Battle of Harlem was fought in the vicinity of 155th 
Street, but that a flank movement was attempted in the neighborhood of 
what I suppose is the present site of Trinity Cemetery. I was explicit 
in showing that the battle was, in my judgment, fought below the site 
of the present Convent of the Sacred Heart, at the Point of Rocks and 
along the irregular line of high ground to the north of the plain to the 
east of Manhattanville. 

In this connection, I will state my belief that after all the excavating 
nothing can be judged at the present time with accuracy as to where this 
line extended at the time of the battle. When I was a boy the Point of 
Rocks extended so far to the south that it must have almost reached the 
line of the street now extending eastward from the foot of Claremont 
Heights. I recollect at one point on the road from Manhattanville to 
Harlem, this Point of Rocks seemed to almost shut out the valley and 
view of Manhattanville. 

Again, I did not state I remembered seeing some intrenchments in 
the vicinity of Trinity Cemetery, but I described the line of earthworks 
I saw as being in connection with those on the Point of Rocks. 

I did not state that the Americans were encamped on Morningside 
Heights, nor on any portion of the high land to the south of the plain. 
On the contrary, I labored to show they could have been nowhere else 



THE BATTLE' OF HARLEM HEIGHTS 



but to the north of the extremity of the Point of Rocks, and all I wrote 
was in relation to the article published in the Evening Post. If in this 
connection there be anything in Lieut. Richards' account as quoted in the 
Post which " fits in exactly " from the standpoint of these gentlemen, as 
to the fight being on the Morningside Heights, it is certainly a mis-fit. 
I agree with them that the English troops, described by Richards as 
forming in line at sunrise at the foot of McGowan's Pass, were not likely 
to have attempted to scale Morningside Heights. The fact of this force 
being at the foot of McGowan's Pass goes to prove that they were there 
to cross the plain and make an attack on the American line, within 
which Richards' Connecticut regiment was stationed ; and as he was with 
his regiment, which took part in the fight, it becomes evident that the 
battle was fought about the Point of Rocks. 

If Morningside Heights to Claremont, then held by the British, 
formed a part of Harlem Heights, and the American forces also held a 
portion of Harlem Heights to the north, it seems evident that the order 
to General Lee (referred to in my first article) would have been more 
explicit. The resolution of Congress, passed October 17, 1776, was: 
" Resolved, That General Lee be directed to repair to the camp on the 
Heights of Harlem, with leave," etc. The wording can only be con- 
strued from a logical point, as showing that the heights below Fort 
Washington were the Harlem Heights, and there could have been no 
other Harlem Heights but those occupied by the American forces. 

The only foundation for any fighting on the heights to the south 
rests on an encounter lasting but a few moments. Knowlton, before day- 
light, was sent by Washington, with a single company of his command, 
to get on the flank of the British troops encamped on Vandewater 
Heights, and to reach that position by ascending the Hudson River 
bank at some distance to the south of the present grounds of Columbia 
University. Washington had received information that the enemy was 
forming in force at McGowan's Pass for an attack, and Knowlton was, by 
this means, to cause a diversion, if possible, with the object of retarding the 
general movement. Unfortunately, Knowlton's presence was discovered 
as soon as he reached the brow of the ascent, and he was forced to make 
a hasty retreat. Knowlton's party was followed down to the water by a 
body of the enemy, which crossed the valley to the north, and later in the 
day attempted a flank movement by ascending a ravine, and was repulsed 
as described in my paper. This encounter of Knowlton's at daylight 
on Vandewater Heights, I assert, can scarcely be termed a skirmish nor 
be considered as part of the Battle of Harlem Heights, as the battle did 
not begin until late in the day, and lasted three or four hours. More- 



THE BATTLE OF HARLEM HEIGHTS 



over, the place of Knowlton's encounter was so far to the south of the 
Harlem line (possibly as far south as 94th Street) as to render it impos- 
sible to show any connection with Harlem Heights, the grounds of 
Columbia University or Morningside Heights. I do not propose, nor 
is it necessary, to enter into any further detail of the battle, my only 
purpose, as already stated, being to locate the Harlem Heights, on 
which and about which the Battle of Harlem was fought. 

To show the confusion which exists as to this locality, even in the 
minds of Messrs. Hall and Bolton, I will quote a statement made in 
their paper : " The hill on which the most desperate fighting took place 
is identified by Major Lewis Morris, Jr., who wrote to his father 'on 
September 28 : ' Monday morning an advanced party, Col. Knowlton's 
regiment, was attacked upon a height a little to the southwest of Day's 
tavern.' Day's tavern was on the line of the present 126th Street, two 
hundred feet west of Eighth Avenue. This locates the fight on Morning- 
side Heights" etc. I do not know what relation the site of Day's tavern 
may bear to Eighth Avenue, but I do know that it had no relation what- 
ever with the noted buckwheat field near the Columbia grounds, nor 
with Morningside Heights. My recollection is quite clear in recalling 
the facts of the site of Day's tavern on the east side of the road, extend- 
ing from McGowan's Pass, along the foot of the present Morningside 
Heights to King's Bridge. It was situated some distance to the northeast 
of the Point of Rocks, and Morris' statement was correct. The Point 
of Rocks and other intrenchments on the different hills, forming the 
American line in this neighborhood, were " a little to the southwest of 
Days tavern" I believe the tavern was a mile to the north of any por- 
tion of Morningside Heights, and at this advanced point Knowlton 
with the Connecticut troops were stationed, in the most direct line for 
the enemy from McGowan's Pass. ' 

Having reached this point in my task, which proved a fatiguing one, 
I was prompted to consult Mrs. Lamb's History of New York City, it 
being the only work in my present library from which I could obtain any 
information relating to the Battle of Harlem Heights. To my satisfac- 
tion I found a tracing of Colton's map, which confirms the accuracy of 
my recollection in relation to the site of Day's tavern. In addition, I 
found that in all essentials as to the wooded country, roads, etc., I had 
been accurate ; a remarkable circumstance, as I have had to trust to the 
impressions made by my observation and historical studies at a period 
which would doubtless antedate the birth of either of these gentlemen. 
Colton's map shows, as I stated, that there was no road at this time from 
these heights to the valley, and that only a pathway existed from the 



THE BATTLE OF HARLEM HEIGHTS 



Claremont Heights along the course of the Bloomingdale road, which 
was not open in this neighborhood until after the Revolution. It does 
give, however, what was probably a farm road from Hoagland's house 
down into the King's Bridge road, at about noth Street. After the 
Bloomingdale road was extended to Manhattanville, this one was probably 
closed, as it did not exist within my recollection. 




Sketch of Battle-Field. Harlem Heights. 

:at Hritain and America, September i6, 1776. 
! York, Vol. II, p. i2Q. 

Mrs. Lamb gives a confused account in relation to Major Morris' 
letter, but this is evidently an oversight, if taken in connection with her 
full account of the battle. So fully does she consider every authority in 
locating the site of Harlem Heights, and her deductions are so in accord 
with my position, that it is unnecessary for me to take further exceptions 
to other inaccurate statements made by these gentlemen. In conclusion, 
I will state that under the circumstances I feel that their prologue 
written as a warning to the public, as to the accuracy of my statement, 
is, to say the least, uncalled for. 

Thos. Addis Emmet, M. D. 

(I omitted to correct a misstatement at the beginning of the paper by these gentle- 
men: My article was written for the Evening Post last winter, while I was South, and in 
answer to an editorial which had appeared shortly before, but that paper declined to pub- 
lish it. The editor probably labored under the impression that Messrs. Hall and Bolton 
knew all about it; and that the buckwheat field could not have been anywhere else but in 
the grounds of Columbia University, while in fact the real buckwheat field was situated 
far to the north, near the real Day's tavern.) 



DUE DATE